Brazilian Defense minister, Waldir Pires, criticized statements made by the owners of ExcelAire, the New-York-based air-taxi company, whose plane collided with a Boeing 737 over the Amazon jungle causing Brazil’s worst air accident ever.
Pires was reacting to a press release issued by the American company in which they blame the Brazilian air traffic controllers for the September 29 accident, which left 154 people dead. These statements, say the Brazilian minister, are "absolutely inadequate."
ExcelAire, in its note, said that it’s premature to blame its pilots, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino for the tragedy. The company was responding to charges of negligence contained in two lawsuits filed in US courts by American lawyers on behalf of the families of the victims who died in the crash.
In one of the judicial proceedings, attorney Manuel von Ribbeck writes that the ExcelAire’s pilots "did not adopt the needed precautions and acted in a careless and negligent manner."
Ribbeck also said that at the time of the collision, the Legacy’s pilots were not in the altitude determined by the flight plan. Moreover, the suit contends, they weren’t able to adequately operate the TCAS [the anti-collision system] or to maintain the necessary communication with the Brazilian Air Traffic Control."
Robert Torricella, the American lawyer representing ExcelAire, had stated in the company’s press release: "In the face of recent confirmations that air traffic control cleared and directed the ExcelAire Legacy Jet to fly to Manaus at 37,000 feet, repeated suggestions that ExcelAire’s pilots were flying at the wrong altitude are baseless,"
And added: "According to international aviation regulations and norms, air traffic control directives take precedence over a written flight plan and those directives effectively amend the written flight plan. It is the flight plan cleared by air traffic control at the time of departure – and not the prior written flight plan – that governs the conduct of the flight."
According to minister Pires, however, the American pilots should have stuck to their original flight plan whatever was told them by the air controllers:
"The control tower, usually, cares about the plane’s take off and its final destination, but it’s not the tower that determined altitudes and the course of things. This is determined by the flight plan. And, in the flight plan, obviously, was written that the plane should march (sic) at 37,000 feet from São José dos Campos through Brasília and that in Brasília it should descend to 36,000 feet."
Lepore and Paladino have been detained in Rio de Janeiro. Their passports were confiscated by the Rio Federal Police. The Legacy plane, which as involved in the accident, also cannot leave the country.